Friday, September 20, 2019

The Republican Party has no 'bedrock principles.' The Democratic Party doesn't either

Jeff Jacoby sets out below a useful history of both the Democratic and Repubican party policies.  As I have long pointed out, the Republican and Democratic parties have to a considerable extent switched places.  That is perhaps most clearly seen in policies towards America's great self-inflicted problem: Blacks.   In the 19th century Democrats wanted blacks kept on a leash whereas Republicans did not.  They even fought a bloody war over it.  And the war didn't have much effect on those attitudes, as the emergence of the KKK showed.

After the great change of the 1960s however, that substantially reversed.  Republicans continued to want to live and let live whereas Democrats became the big advocates of black emancipatuion and acceptance

So is Jacoby right? Does the Republican party have no lasting principles?  That is an interesting question but it is not the most important one.  We cannot identify the GOP with conservatives.  So we also need to ask whether conservatives have any lasting policies and principles.  And, superficially, the answer is that neither Republicans nor conservatives have any enduring policies.  Many conservative thinkers have argued over the years that conservatives have no fixed principles -- e.g. Feiling.  See also here

But that is not the whole of the answer. In my academic way, I regard the answer to one question as the starting point for another question so I immediately ask WHY the major parties have been so changeable in their policies.  And the answer is pretty clear:  Circumstances alter cases.  The realities that political parties face are always changing and it is to cope with new realities that policies are changed.

An interesting example of that is before our eyes at the moment in Hongkong.  With the encouragement of old crooks like Bernie Sanders, Many American student radicals are advocating socialism, sometimes vociferously.  But at the same time, their counterparts in Hong Kong are demonstrating AGAINST socialism. They have seen it up close and want no part of it.  Having a socialist behemoth looming over you is a lot different from a pleasant-sounding abtraction. Circumstances alter cases.

So is conservatism an illusion?  Is there really no such thing? If Left and Right can switch places so readily, is there anything  left to describe or talk about? Is there anything that alters how we respond to changing circumstances?

There is.  As I have repeatedly argued, we find some very strong and consistent influences if we go down to the psychological level of analysis.  In fact, as I have argued at great length elsewhere, we find that we have always had conservatives with us.  And regular readers here will be familiar with what I have proposed.  In brief:

Although particular policies change, policies called conservative do tend to have one constant characteristic: caution.  Policies referred to as conservative are normally cautious policies. Cautious and conservative are near synonyms. And to be called a conservative you are normally cautious about a lot of things.

So what makes some people systematically cautious? There could be a number of influences but I think it is mainly because they  are broadly content with their lives and the world around them. Even Leftists see that. They often refer to conservatives as "complacent". And surveys of happiness do normally show conservatives as happier.

And if you are happy with your situation, proposals to make big changes in it arouse caution. They have to be examined carefully lest they upset things you are happy with. Leftists, because they are basically unhappy people, want change with a passion. Conservatives will consider change but feel no urgency about it so need to be convinced that it will be to the good before they support it

So Jeff is right in that the policies of a political party will change as the world changes.  But just which policies will be adopted at any one time will reflect the personalities of the individuals concerned.  And conservatives are the happy or at least the contented people

OVER THE WEEKEND, the Washington Post published an op-ed column by Mark Sanford, Joe Walsh, and Bill Weld, the three candidates challenging President Trump for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination. They expressed indignation over the decision by Republican parties in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina to cancel next year's presidential primaries and award their convention delegates to the president without any input from the voters.

"Trump loyalists in the four states that have canceled their primaries and caucuses claim that President Trump will win by a landslide, and that it is therefore a waste of money to invest in holding primaries or caucuses," the three Republicans write. "But since when do we use poll numbers as our basis for deciding whether to give voters an opportunity to choose?"

I sympathize with the challengers. They have every reason to resent the state parties' maneuver, which denies them the chance to go before Republican voters and make their case that Trump should be replaced. But it was something else in their op-ed that caught my eye.

Sanford, Walsh, and Weld condemn Trump for having "abandoned the bedrock principles of the GOP," and insist that "if a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing."

Is that true? I would suggest that when all is said and done, major parties are primarily about winning elections — and that their "bedrock principles" are usually softer and more malleable than party members think.

Faithful Republicans and Democrats generally associate their parties with certain political values, and often imagine that those values go to the party's essence. At the Massachusetts Democratic Convention on Saturday, Senator Elizabeth Warren exhorted delegates to remember that "Democrats have been on the front lines in the fight for social, racial, and economic justice." In a speech to Republican lawmakers the day before, Trump listed the values that he said unite Republicans — they "defend the Constitution ... stand up for heroes of law enforcement ... reject globalism ... respect our great American flag." This is how most of us tend to think about parties: that they embody a core philosophy, which they win elections in order to implement.

But the opposite is closer to the truth: Parties strive to win elections, and over time adapt their views and ideology to do so.

In a forthcoming book, How America's Political Parties Change (And How They Don't), the respected political analyst Michael Barone observes that the Democratic Party (which dates from 1832) and the Republican Party (born in 1854) are among the very oldest political parties in the world. As he shows in fascinating detail, both parties' basic values have changed dramatically over the generations. The only thing about them that remains constant, Barone argues, is the type of groups each appeals to: Republicans are the party of those considered to be "typical Americans," while Democrats are "a collection of out-groups."

Over time, the makeup of those categories has shifted enormously. In the 19th century, Republicans were apt to be northern, Protestant, town- and city-dwellers; in the 21st century, they are more likely to be married white, southern Christians. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, has gone from being the 19th-century party of southern slaveholders and big-city Catholics to the 21st-century party of urban blacks and affluent major-metro liberals.

Yet even more striking is how each party's "bedrock principles" have altered.

In the 1930s, Barone writes, the Democratic Party under Franklin Delano Roosevelt "stood for big government, deficit financing, and inflationary currency." A century earlier, the Democratic Party under Andrew Jackson "stood for pretty much the opposite." From the 1850s through the turn of the 20th century, on the other hand, the GOP was the big-government party: It favored the imposition of uniform policies on the states, denounced racial segregation, championed protective tariffs, and passed laws against corporate monopolies. By the 1920s, however, Republicans had morphed into a party skeptical of activist government and more inclined to focus on economic growth and lower taxes.

Changes in the parties' policy stands are often driven by the changing nature of their supporters. For example, the GOP was home to many liberals until the 1970s. They stayed Republican, Barone writes, because they detested the big-city machine bosses, the militant union leaders, and the segregationist southern politicians who were the Democratic Party's dominant players. As those elements gradually disappeared from Democratic politics, the liberal wing of the Republican Party disappeared as well.

Something similar happened with Democratic conservatives. They stuck with the party long after FDR and the New Deal did away with the party's Jeffersonian tradition of small government and laissez-faire economics. What finally drove them out, Barone writes, was not civil rights — a popular misconception — but foreign policy. Conservative Democrats were hawks, and the Democratic Party from Roosevelt through Johnson was the party of military action abroad, hefty defense spending at home, and vigorous Cold War anticommunism. But with the rise of prominent antiwar Democrats like Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, the party turned dovish — and more and more conservatives turned Republican.

The Democratic and Republican parties are always in flux. Their values, their rules, their powerbrokers, their supporters — all change over time. Only one thing remains fixed: the quest to win elections. That was true long before Trump showed up. It will be true long after he's gone.



Elizabeth Warren’s war on men is an insulting, losing strategy

Elizabeth Warren made the political calculation this week that she doesn’t need men to win the presidency.  “We’re not here today because of famous arches or famous men,” she told a rally in Washington Square Park Monday night. “In fact, we’re not here because of men at all,” she said, emphasizing the “m” word like an expletive.

Great. Then she won’t mind if men don’t vote for her, nor women who like men.

It’s a losing strategy, taken straight out of the playbook of Hillary Clinton, from whom, reportedly and inexplicably, Warren has been taking advice.

Millions of American women showed in 2016 that they weren’t prepared to vote for Clinton just because she had a second X chromosome. White, noncollege-educated women in particular voted almost 2-to-1 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Most likely, they didn’t approve of the denigration of their menfolk as “deplorables” abusing “white male privilege” when the truth is that the males they love are doing their best, even if jobs are scarce and they’re dying of overdoses.

So when a Harvard law professor stands on a stage in New York and says “we’re not here” because of men, there’s a lot of ideological baggage attached. Warren’s ­supporters in the 10,000-strong crowd understood before the words were even out of her mouth, giving her the biggest applause of the evening.

Actually, if you have an ounce of humility, you’d have to admit we probably all are here because of men, famous or not. Men who fought wars, men who drilled for oil, men who built monuments, men who cured illness, or men like Christopher Columbus, who sailed the ocean blue, and whose statue will be removed from Central Park for the crime of being male, if certain city officials get their way.

It’s hard to imagine Warren herself would be “here” without a father providing his male DNA, although the modern Democratic Party will tell you that men are not essential to the fertilization process anymore.

The Founding Fathers had a little input to our being “here,” too. But, for Warren, one of these men, in whose eponymous square she chose to hold her rally, was a provocation that had to be called out Monday night.

Immediately before saying “we’re not here because of men,” she dissed George Washington and the beautiful Tuckahoe marble arch that bears his name.

“I wanted to give this speech right here and not because of the arch behind me or the president that this square is named for — nope.”

That majestic, 200-year-old arch, under which Warren had set up her podium, flag, microphone and campaign signage, celebrates George Washington’s inauguration as the first president of the United States in 1789.

It is adorned with carvings of Fame, Valor, Wisdom and Justice, and an aspirational inscription reading: “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.”

Such sentiments are too noble and consequential for 2020’s Femocratic candidates, male and female, whose lifeblood is the dead hand of identity politics.

They malign the past as the squalid seed of the patriarchy; their woke revolution aims to erase history and replace it with a new America where none of us wants to live.

The problem for Warren is that, as Hillary Clinton discovered, most women don’t want any part of an identity politics that pitches them against men.

They don’t want men to be losers because they don’t want to marry losers, and they sure don’t want their sons to be losers.

Most women love men. They love their husbands, their sons, their fathers. They’ve had male mentors and male coaches and male teachers who’ve been good people.

Perhaps there’s something about having a bad experience with a man that propels some women into the public eye or attracts them to leftist politics.

Maybe the left has fashioned a culture in which the only way for a woman to get ahead is to ritually denounce men.

But it is perverse and goes against human nature.

In any case, if Warren really has been taking advice from Clinton, she’s a goner in 2020, regardless of poll numbers that have her biting at Joe Biden’s heels.

Even after losing the unlosable election to Donald Trump, Clinton didn’t have the grace or self-awareness to acknowledge that she was the problem.

Instead, America’s First Feminist blamed women. If they didn’t vote for her, it was because they were too weak and stupid to think for themselves. Women had been pressured by “fathers and husbands and boyfriends and male employers not to vote for ‘the girl,’ ” she breezily told CBS News in the aftermath of the election.

That’s the new feminist take on democracy.

But don’t say Warren doesn’t do anything at all for men.

Her latest policy on reproductive rights ensures that all men have access to taxpayer-funded abortions.

What a relief.



Trump's welcome rule change: No more food stamps for millionaires

When Americans think of food stamp recipients, images of desperate lower-income Americans typically come to mind. Taxpayers desperately want to believe that their hard-earned dollars are helping poor people struggling to make ends meet with welfare benefits helping them get the vital nutrients they need to stay alive. Imagine the outrage, then, as taxpayers find out that some of the people on food stamps are in fact millionaires.

Because of a bizarre loophole in how food stamps (formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) are administered by states, millionaires — or even billionaires — can receive food stamps. A loophole allows bureaucrats to simply ignore federally mandated asset requirements. As a result, an estimated 3.1 million to 5 million people currently on food stamps shouldn’t be receiving this welfare benefit. Taxpayers deserve better than having to share their paychecks with well-off Americans who are unlikely to be in want of a meal.

Federal loopholes often have a Kafkaesque quality to them, creating stranger-than-fiction situations that would be hilarious if they weren’t costing taxpayers billions of dollars annually. The puzzling policy was born out of the 1990s welfare reform package, which was designed to streamline efficiency and prevent people from having to reapply for multiple welfare programs. The changes stipulated that anyone receiving assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families welfare program was also eligible for food stamps.

This made sense at the time when policymakers were laser-focused on reducing the administrative costs of the program and keeping the application process easy. But now, the 1990s are a faint memory, and welfare programs have morphed out of control. In particular, the TANF program has been expanded to the point that that the mere act of receiving a brochure or calling a toll-free number funded by a TANF program now counts as receiving a benefit from TANF. And receiving a TANF benefit makes citizens automatically eligible for food stamps often without any consideration of assets. In 36 states, rules don’t require bureaucrats to ensure that recipients’ assets aren’t too high to receive SNAP benefits.

This gargantuan oversight gap leads to all sorts of ludicrous situations. Leroy Fick received food stamps , even after winning $2 million in the Michigan State Lottery. Fick used his winnings to buy a new home and an Audi convertible, all while continuing to receive SNAP benefits.

Because the food stamp program is paid for by the federal government, but TANF benefits are distributed by the states, there is little or no incentive for states to behave with any accountability. This mismatch has resulted in wacky situations where TANF-funded family planning brochures have been distributed by one state simply to confer SNAP auto-eligibility onto eager recipients.

Fortunately, taxpayers may soon get a respite from this ludicrous loophole. The Trump Administration is finally looking into fixing this SNAP-fu, tweaking the rule so that a person can only cross-qualify if welfare benefits they are receiving under TANF are “substantial and ongoing.” By replacing the “one phone call or one brochure and you’re in” system, this proposed rule change is set to save taxpayers close to $10 billion over the next five years.

Taking advantage of the SNAP loophole is theft, pure and simple, not only from taxpayers but also from genuinely needy Americans. Reform proposals are not only common sense, but the only fair way to ensure that the SNAP program sticks around for the people who truly need it. All advocates for the less-fortunate should celebrate a much-needed change that saves taxpayers billions of dollars and helps the needy get food on the table.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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